On Wednesday morning, 8 September, a boat carrying 28 people landed south west of Ireo, Samos. Immediately after arriving they fled to the woods, hiding from the Greek police, scared that they would be found and returned to Turkey.
At 05.41 they contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they asked for help, so that they wouldn’t be illegally deported by the Greek police.
The new arrivals provided pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt that the group had arrived on Samos. Aegean Boat Report tried to persuade them to move towards populated areas, but in the group there were a pregnant woman, one person with a leg injury and some children, their ability to walk as a group was limited.
We had only contact with the group for five hours, and at 10.34 all contact was lost, on three different phones, simultaneously, we suspected that police had found the group, but they also could have run out of battery on their phone, all at once, we couldn’t know for sure.
Aegean Boat Report tried to find out what happened with the new arrivals on Samos, from local contacts we were informed that no new arrivals had been registered on the island, not this day nor the following days. The possibility that they had been illegally removed from the island seemed highly possible.
At 02.45 September 9, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had rescued and picked up 25 people from a life raft drifting outside Seferihisar, Turkey.
From pictures and video published by TCG from the incident we have identified 11 of them to be from the landing on Samos south. The Hellenic coast guard had taken away all their belongings, bags and phones.
For a while we believed that perhaps a three of them had managed to stay behind, hiding in the woods on Samos, and at 06.20 Thursday morning the group of three contacted Aegean Boat Report.
We maintain contact for two hours, while they moved towards Ireo, pictures and location data was received, and in particular one picture proves without a doubt their presence on the island, a picture of the three of them in front of the road sign to Ireo. At 08.25 contact with the group was lost, most like found by Greek police in the outskirts of Ireo.
At 14.10 September 9, the Turkish coast guard(TCG) reported that they had detected three people, two men and a woman, on land in an remote area of Kusadasi National park, east of the Mycale Strait, only a few kilometers from Samos.
Their story is almost unbelievable, and if we hadn’t had pictures and location data from them that place them on Samos earlier this day, we would have had difficulty believing them.
The three of them hade decided to separate from the group and walk towards the village of Ireo, to try to be taken to the refuge camp on the island so that they could register their asylum claim. They slept in the woods during the night to avoid being detected by police, but in the morning Police had found them, just as they were entering Ireo, and they were arrested.
They didn’t see much, it was dark, but it was some kind of port. Police in dark military uniforms, head covered with balaclavas, forced them on a grey and white boat, most likely a Lambro coastal patrol boat belonging to the Hellenic Coast Guard. At night they were taken out to sea in high speed, and after about 30 minutes the boat stopped. Three people was thrown from the coast guard vessel directly into the sea, and told they had to swim ashore. Even with life vests, this is extremely dangerous, and can only be seen as attempted murder.
This kind of inhuman and extreme behavior from the Hellenic Coast Guard is unfortunately not unusual, several have previously reported to have gotten the same treatment, left at sea and had to swim ashore, outside Lesvos, Samos and especially Chios.
The evidence speaks for itself, there is, and have never been, any doubt on who is responsible for these authorities.
It’s time for European politicians to take off their blindfolds, it’s time to see that what is going on on the borders of Europe is a crime against humanity, to say “we didn’t know” is no longer an option.We must stop pretending that this doesn’t concern us, that’s it’s “their” rights that are being violated, not ours.
It is an attack on us all: when a government strips a Somali teen, a Syrian child, an Iraqi man, an Afghan woman of their human rights, you have to know that they are reserving the right to do the same to you, to your son, daughter, brother, sister, parents, grandfather and grandmother.
Those rights belong to us all: once they are taken from one of us, they can be taken from us all. It must stop. We cannot simply turn a blind eye to this – the disgrace of Europe. Instead, we must stand, together, and demand better: from our governments, from the EU, from the international community.
The Greek government must stop pretending to ‘know nothing’ about a practice which is clearly its policy. It must stop pretending that every NGO operating in Greece, as well as the UN, international media and the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, are in fact somehow ‘employees of’ or collaborators in, Turkish ‘propaganda’.
It must, immediately – as Greece’s Ombudsman has concluded and demands – open public and accessible investigations into the actions of its own uniformed officers in illegally expelling men, women and children seeking decent places to live.
It must end this shameful, illegal, dehumanising, embarrassing and unacceptable practice.